Wrote this feature for the Indo –
It’s the greatest tournament on the planet – we’ve waited and waited for it to come round and now here it is, and it is better than we could have anticipated. We may not have a representative of our country at it, but we are all there in spirit, as this is about skill, determination, passion and the strength of the human spirit. I speak of course of Love Island, the reality show that dropkicks a dozen failed eugenics experiments into a sunny Mallorcan villa in a sort of Battle Royale where you have to shift your way to being last couple standing. The sole aim of the show is to get the young lovelies hooking up with each other and winning 50k, or possibly just some notoriety, which in today’s world of micro-celebrity is almost better than the prize money. Who knows what commercial opportunities await the contestants after they leave the island – who will land that lucrative deal as the face of Canesten, who will end up flogging off-brand vodka in the drinks aisle of their local Tesco, who will be forced into shame-filled public appearances in nightclubs in hotspots like Manorhamilton or Fermoy? Basically, all of them, because a fame based on embarrassment only lasts so long. Just ask Donegal’s Bernard McHugh, who touched hearts when he went on Blind Date, and then went on to become a stripper, albeit a very Irish one who never took his trousers off.
Love Island, much like the World Cup, is one of the few things that will get the teens back watching terrestrial TV. The football is just like FIFA 18 only the players look less realistic in real life, while Love Island is like Call Of Duty, only it’s the call of booty that is being answered by the players on TV3. Some would say that the idea of strategic, competitive romance on a reality TV gameshow is a further sign of the decline of western civilisation, but it really is no different to Les Liaisons Dangereuses: The cast of too-perfect, allegedly 20 somethings all try to seduce their way to becoming the perfect TV couple, winning hearts, minds and other organs, and hopefully then going on to win the public vote. Along the way there has been subterfuge, deception, manipulation, and a lot of very tanned people telling each other that they ‘really rate each other as people’ when actually they mean to say that they want to get freaky naughty.
In between all this are odd party games, like the one where they had to smash watermelons with their arses (a slow-motion montage that made VAR look like a functioning system), or challenges like the time they had to pass ingredients for cocktails through each others mouths. Anyone from a medical background watching the show – including contestant Dr Alex, an emergency doctor who you would hate to have dithering in the resus room during an actual emergency) must be counting down the minutes until there is an outbreak of conjunctivitis or scabies.
But part of what makes the show so watchable is just seeing how terribly awkward we are as a species. These people are mostly great looking, young, fit and healthy, and for the most part they are intelligent human beings. However, the fact they are what we would consider to be perfect people is in stark contrast to how bumbling they are when trying to mate. It’s bliss to watch them fail and to feel better about yourself as a result. Consider Adam Collard, who looks like a Greek god, yet here is his profile quote: “I would say I’m a ten out of ten. Maybe a nine out of ten… I’m not good at washing the dishes.” It’s like Bret Easton Ellis scripted an episode of Eastenders.
Love Island is the perfect companion piece to the World Cup: Drained by all the intrigue, big name clashes and shameless overacting/fake crying on one channel? Why not tune into the exact same format on another? Enjoy knockouts (all of them), fit tanned people running rings around each other (Megan’s nimble dance around the blokes), spectacular own goals (Wes’s series of unfortunate events), fouls (Dani being shown the footage of Jack’s ex entering), maybe even some hand ball (all the various episodes of duvet twitching)? Then Love Island is the perfect place to find your comfort zone during those brief interludes when the footie isn’t on.